Blog #13

Over 500

 

In the middle of March the frogs laid there clumps of spawn which was quite amazing to see in my fish pond but I knew it wouldn’t last long when the tadpoles hatched before the fish gobbled them ALL up!

It was 2 years ago that I made a small frog pond up the back of the garden in an old tub which I put in the ground. Then the year after we had lots of tadpoles which I transferred into it. Then I realized that it would not be big enough so I made a frog pond covering 1 and a half metres long and a metre deep. There was also a shallow side for the frogs to spawn.

This year there were so many that I put some in the frog pond and kept over 500 inside which all grew up and started forming legs, some even turning into froglets which are so fascinating to watch when they hop around. I really needed to release them soon and so decided to put them in a local pond (Broom Pond in Glasgow) I transferred them ALL into a suit ball tub.

 

IMG_1155
Broom Pond

 

IMG_1151
Me (Michael)

When they were released the froglets were so funny to watch as they swam away with their tiny and delicate legs, they pushed both of their back legs out and then both their front legs. This allowed them to get forward in the water and they were so fast!

During the time they were growing up I kept them in 2 massive plastic trays regularly refreshing their water with rain water. I fed them fish food which they loved! They had pond weed some floating pond grass and rocks to keep them alive and happy.

Hopefully the frog population will increase a bit now!

Blog #12

Blog #12

Second Ringing Session

 

On my previous ringing session blog #10 I was helping to catch Jack Snipe to be ringed, ever since I have been emailing Iain Livingston to check when he would be going ringing. He said on Saturday that he would be ringing at Strathclyde and I was welcome to come and help!

 

It was an early start to be up at 6:00am and leaving the house at 6:30 to be there nice and early to set up the mist nets. Mist nets are nets which are setup from near ground level to quite high up and then passerine Birds like Tits, Finches, Sparrows, Wrens, Robins and most other small birds fly into them and get trapped without any injury!  Then every 10-15 mins they get checked and the birds are taken out and ringed.  When they have been ringed and a few measurements are taken, they are released again. The rings, which fit onto the birds legs, are small and do not harm the bird. They are simply to gain information on birds, for example if one was photographed or recaptured in a country again, then it would be looked up in the database and the information can be added which helps with recording its lifespan, where it travels, the size they grow to etc.

 

There were four of us in total, Iain, Liam, my dad and me. Whilst we were walking to the ringing site location, in the river we saw an otter swimming around which was a great spot from Iain and so satisfying. When we got to the site Iain and Liam set up the nets whilst we learned. We all went round every 10-15 mins to check the nets to ring the captured birds which were all released again without harm.

Sedge Warbler
 

Sedge Warbler

 

Throughout the time there we caught around 10 different species including; Treecreeper, Garden Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Blue Tit, Blackbird, Bullfinch, Goldfinch, Wren, Reed Bunting and Dunnock.

 

Garden Warbler
Garden Warbler

 

Treecreeper
Treecreeper

Goldfinches
Goldfinches

We stayed until lunchtime before it became quite and not much was caught again. But 2 herons were regularly flying over and an amazing number of over 6 orange tip butterflies were fluttering about for most of the time.

I can’t wait until the next ringing session!

 

Blog #11

A small world

It was a Friday and sunny day so I decided to head down to my local patch (Greenbank Gardens in Clarkston, Glasgow) for a bit of nest recording.

The time I spent there was really worth it as in a couple of hours I managed to find the following nests: 5 blue tit, 1 bullfinch, 4 wren, 1 robin (with 4 eggs), 1 blackcap (building) and 7 blackbird (at different stages). The song thrushes were also out collecting worms in the main grassy area. First they would spear a worm with their beaks before shaking off the dirt and finally swallowing them whole: it was amazing to watch!

 

Song Thrush
Song Thrush

 

There were also robins, dunnocks, blackbirds and starlings joining in with insect and worm hunting amongst the grass. As soon as I left the main grassy patch, the rabbits started creeping out from among the plants and vegetation and the swallows started swooping about overhead and catching any insects they could.

 

robin230417
Robin

 

By the time I completed my walk round the rest of the gardens I’d seen around 30 species including bank voles, grey squirrels and a host of birds.

 

Jackdaw
Jackdaw

 

This is the first full year I will be nest recording and I’m really excited about what data I’ll be able to collect and return to the BTO.

On my way back home we took a drive along some country roads at Thorntonhall hoping to see the wheatears that are usually found in the fields at this time of year.  Although we never saw any wheatears we did see a weasel chasing a vole across the road. The vole managed to escape with its life but my dad started to make rabbit noises to try and get the weasels attention to photograph it and it worked! It came out of the grass verge next to the road and started running towards the car with its ears pointed up. My dad got a nice photo; unfortunately I hadn’t brought my camera as I was focusing on nest recording and didn’t manage to get a photo which was a shame. (See my dad’s photo here)

 

The nest details:

Blackbird= 1 active

Blue Tit= 5 active

Wren= Unknown (they can build up to 8 nests and may only use 1)

Starling= Many active in woods but 1 active in gardens

Buzzards= 1 pair repairing nest to get ready to lay

Bullfinch and Blackcap= In process of building

Swallow= Just arrived (migrated)

Robin= Currently on 4 eggs

(updates of nests in future blogs)

 

Blog #10

Blog #10

Easter Holiday (week one)

 

The Easter holidays were nearly here, just a week to go! It was my first bird ringing session with Iain Livingston at Cathkin Marshes Nature Reserve near Glasgow.

I arrived there and met Iain, Jim Douglas (the Reserve Warden) and a number of other volunteers. Iain explained what the drill was for using the net; we had to drag it across sections of the bog before pushing down the edges every so often and walking over it carefully hoping to flush an elusive Jack Snipe or two!

 

on the net
(Photo Taken By Richard Whitson)

 

We spent four hours there and caught four Jack Snipe. As well as ringing them we also attached a GPS tracker to two of the birds which would allow their movements to be determined if they were recaptured.

I had lots of fun that day and learned a lot from Iain and the volunteer ringers.  Special thanks to Richard Whitson who took some photos that day of me releasing the Jack Snipe.

 

jack snipe photos
(Photo Taken By Richard Whitson)

 

On the first Saturday of the Scottish School’s Easter holidays I had a photography session at RSPB Lochwinnoch with David Palmar (www.photoscot.co.uk).  To begin with, David outlined the format for the day and covered some key wildlife photography ‘tips’ before we split into two groups. The group I was in went to the dedicated photography hide and the others to the wild bird feeding station.

Goldfinch
Goldfinch
Lesser Redpoll
Lesser Redpoll
Blue Tit
Blue Tit

Then after a while we swapped­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­ over and spent a further 40 mins or so taking pictures.

Nuthatch
Nuthatch
Siskin
Siskin

After a chat to everyone over lunch we concentrated on ‘non-bird’ photography for the afternoon session; David very kindly gave me the opportunity to try out a macro lens for some close-up plant/fungi shots. I had never used a macro lens before so it was a great experience to try out some new techniques.

Scarlet Elf Cup Fungi (faded)

The LeafLeaf

 

 

Blog #9

Blog #9

Highland Adventure

The weather in the highlands had started getting milder so I decided to take the chance to get some photos before most of the snow had melted.

I had recently been to Cardwell Bay near Port Glasgow where I met someone who told me that there were some interesting species around in the highlands like Snow Buntings, Ptarmigan, and Red Grouse in addition to a host of more common species. So, this weekend I went up to Grantown-on-Spey with my family where we stayed in the Grant Arms Hotel. The hotel is has a dedicated Wildlife and Birdwatching club and holds nightly talks and has experts on-hand to advise on good local sites to visit.

We got up at 5.30am on Saturday morning for the 3 hour drive up north. The first place we went to was called Loch Garten where I had been before (Blog #1). This time there was much less bird activity around the car park area, with only a few coal tits prepared to feed from my hand.  However, it wasn’t long before we saw a lovely common frog with stunning colouring; I also found two common toads which also offered some further photographic opportunities.  During the 2 hours we spent at the site we still managed to see a number of other birds including Treecreepers, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, Blue tits, Great tits, lots of Chaffinches and some red squirrels. 

Common Frog
Common Frog

 

Common Toad
Common Toad

 

Common Toad
Common Toad

After grabbing some lunch we headed off to the Cairngorm Mountains in search of the elusive Ptarmigan and Golden Eagle.  We stopped at the car park for the funicular railway but then headed off for a 1 hour walk up to one of the corries.

Despite meeting a couple who had found a pair of Ptarmigan further up the path we were unable to find them when we arrived at the spot although we did hear them – so frustrating!! Despite this I did get some Red Grouse photos which didn’t prove too difficult as there were around 20 – 30 of them constantly popping up from amongst the heather and rocks.

Red Grouse
Red Grouse

 

Red Grouse
Red Grouse
 

The next day was spent looking for Crossbills in one of the valleys close to the Cairngorms but unfortunately I had no luck with that, although I did manage to see two red deer as well as a long-tailed tit.

Before heading home we made a quick stop-off back at Loch Garten to see what else was around; on route we saw a nice Jay and a few Buzzards.  At the loch car park I got some photos and film footage of a lovely robin singing on a branch.  Unfortunately, time was against us and we had to head off home without having seen the crested tits this time.  However, the highlands is such a wonderful place and I’ll definitely return!

Robin
Robin

On the way back, about 1 hour from home as the light was fading we stopped briefly at Flanders Moss Nature Reserve near Thornhill and saw around 500 pink footed geese in a nearby field.  The light was fading fast and although birds could be heard in the trees, none were showing; however, the frogs had clearly been busy as there were massive clumps of frog spawn in the many pools.

Despite not seeing many of the species I’d hoped to at the outset of my trip I still had a great time with the mammals and amphibians stealing the show this time!

 

Blog #8

Blog #8

 

A Long Weekend

It was the school mid-term holiday in February, so I decided to use this time off to do some more wildlife photography.

I’d recently got a new app (Bird Guides) which gives me real-time information on bird locations and it was telling me there were some Waxwings less than half an hour away at Hamilton; so I set off to find them. This time I was hoping to get some photos of them actually feeding on berries.   

After arriving at Hamilton I quickly spotted a huge flock flying around; it wasn’t long before they settled in some large trees and started feeding on the berries. They were really close and not easily spooked so I managed to get some nice photos.

Waxwing
Waxwing

 

Waxwing
Waxwing

 

Waxwing
Waxwing

 

Waxwing
Waxwing

The next day of the holiday was spent at WWT Caerlaverock near Dumfries where I saw Mute and Whooper Swans, Pink Footed Geese, Barnacle Geese, Shoveler, Teal, Widgeon and Pintail as well as Yellowhammers, Tree Sparrows and a Little Egret. 

Whooper Swan
Whooper Swan
Little Egret
Little Egret

At the same time as I saw the Peregrines, myself and 3 others in our hide were sure we saw a  Merlin disturb a flock of Knot, but as they were too far in the distance to positively identify they weren’t added to the day’s species list!

At the photography hide and the viewing point I saw a Water Rail and a number of the more common bird species in addition to a brown rat!

House Sparrow
House Sparrow

 

House Sparrow
House Sparrow
Chaffinch
Chaffinch

By the end of the day at Carlaverock I was able to add three new ‘lifers’ to my list: Golden Plover, Peregrine Falcon and a Green-Winged Teal.  

As the sun began to set we made the short journey across to Gretna where we lucky enough to see a fantastic starling murmuration with thousands of birds; it was definitely the highlight of the day! (wildlife video coming out this year, please check website info as there will soon be more info on that)

My final ‘nature’ day of the holiday period involved a trip to the west coast of Scotland to visit a family friend (Keith) who has a delightful flat overlooking Inverkip Marina. The area is just fantastic for wildlife and after chatting for a while we had a short but very interesting costal walk.  Although there weren’t any new species on view, those which were around provided a number of great photo opportunities.  In less than an hour I saw lots of Turnstones, Ringed Plovers, Oystercatchers, Curlews, Eider, Red Breasted Mergansers some Robins a Dunnock and more common species of gull.    

Dunnock
Dunnock

 

Turnstone
Turnstone

This holiday has been amazing so far and it was really nice to finish my 3-day nature blitz at Keith’s super place on the coast.

Blog #7

Blog #7

 

An Unexpected Visitor

It was coming up to the end of January so I decided to make the most of my last weekend of the month. Having set myself a very ambitious target to see 100 new species this year, I decided to go to a place called Ardmore Point (on the west coast of Scotland) hoping to see some new divers/ducks that could increase my monthly total of 7 new species so far this month.

I arrived in less than an hour from home which was much sooner than I expected and was amazed that such a nice place was so much closer to me than I thought. During the car journey I saw several Buzzards perched on branches and lampposts looking in the fields around them.

When I arrived at Ardmore Point and I got out the car I looked over the stunning mudflats which were covered with Oystercatchers feeding on invertebrates in the sand. I watched for a while before noticing a small group of Grey Plovers which took off and flew around in circles before landing on some other rocks in the distance.

Oystercatcher
Oystercatcher

 

Grey Plover
Grey Plover

I walked around the point for about a further 10-15 mins before spotting a group of Eiders feeding on snails and crabs; the sunlight helped highlight the spectacular plumage of the male in particular. Just as the Eiders started to drift off further away from the shore, I was interrupted by a Rock Pipit which was hopping between the rocks scooping up what it could get with its thin beak.

Eider
Eider (male)

 

Eider
Eider (female)

Walking further on, it wasn’t long before I saw loads of Wigeon, Teal, Mallards, Canada Geese and some Herring Gulls. I was so lucky that the weather was nice with only a very light breeze and some nice winter sun. Feeling hungry, I found a spot on the rocky shore to set down my scope and rucksack and have some lunch.

After lunch I spotted a Redshank and took the opportunity to get some photos; then I saw two strange black ducks duck in the distance which I couldn’t make out properly, even with my scope.  Walking further round the point to get a better view I saw someone else with a scope, so I headed over to him to see what was there. We chatted about what we’d seen so far and managed to get our scopes trained on the ‘mystery’ black birds.  We tracked them on and off for nearly 2 hours as they slowly got closer, until eventually we could make them out …….……. they were Velvet Scoters – a new ‘lifer’ for me and completely unexpected!

Redshank
Redshank

In between the time tracking the Velvet Scoters I also manged to see a Long Tailed Duck in the distance and a Red Breasted Merganser which I managed to get some decent shots of.

Red-breasted Merganser
Red-breasted Merganser

 

Red-breasted Merganser
Red-breasted Merganser

As the sun went behind a large cloud the wind got up and we decided to start the hour-long walk back to the car, stopping only briefly to take a few more photos of some Redshank and Oystercatchers.  After about 5 hours my day was done, I left Ardmore Point promising to be back sometime soon!

Blog #6

Blog #6

 

 

Northumberland Day Out

About a month ago I submitted an application to attend the BTO Bird and Nature Camp 2017 at the BTO headquarters in Thetford England. Last Friday I was delighted to get an email telling me that I had a place. I was/am SO excited!!

Shortly after finding out the news I made contact with a few others who are also going to the camp.  We’ve all been speaking regularly since and one of the things we discussed was the presence of a Pacific Diver, a rare migrant from North America, which was showing regularly in a few of the lakes in Northumberland.  Several of the people on the chat were talking about going and I REALLY didn’t want to miss the opportunity to see this bird.

After a bit of pestering I managed to convince my parents to make the 3 hour drive on Sunday! We left Glasgow at 8.30am; although it was a three hour car journey it passed quickly. When I arrived I went straight to Druridge Bay where it had last been seen and without even having to get out of the car I could see it swimming along the lake (being watched by about 20 birders lined up along the bank!) as we drove down to the first car park.

We parked up and I quickly got my camera and scope out and headed down to the water’s edge.  I only had to wait a few minutes before it came towards us and ended up diving about 10m from the bank giving some great photo-opportunities! 

Pacific Diver
Pacific Diver

 

Pacific Diver
Pacific Diver

At about 1pm I headed up to the Visitor’s Centre for lunch before heading off to the dunes at East Chevington in search of Twite and Shore Larks which had both been spotted.  After a short walk along the beach I spotted 7 Shore Larks darting along at the edge of the dunes along with lots of pied wagtails.  After taking a few more photographs I then spotted a flock of around 30 Twite huddled at a clump of weed; needless to say I took some more photos along with those of 3 Turnstones and 2 Sanderling.  By now it was around 3 pm and a cold wind was blowing along the shore – we headed back to the car to warm up and then head back home.

Turnstone
Turnstone

 

Sanderling
Sanderling

 

Twite
Twite

 

Shore Lark
Shore Lark

I really enjoyed my day out at Northumberland I will hopefully go again this year and get some more photos of new species!!

Blog #5

Blog #5

 

A Fab Find

On the same day as my previous blog about Waxwings I discovered something amazing so decided to write a separate blog about it.

When I was looking back through the photographs I’d taken of the Waxwings in Motherwell the day after New Year,  I discovered that one of the birds had 5 rings on its legs.

Waxwing Ringed
Waxwing Ringed

 

I contacted the RSPB community who suggested that I get in touch with the Grampian Ringing Group who have been involved in ringing Waxwings.  They kindly replied attaching loads of information on the bird I’d photographed; it turned out to be a 4 year old female originally ringed in Aberdeen just a few months earlier.  The full information supplied is below and the picture is also featured in their latest blog.

 

LGY

 

 

MW

 

 

NW82609

 

 

17/12/2016

 

 

Leadside Road, Aberdeen

 

 

4f

 

 

RD

 

 

 

 

 

Ringed today

 

 

LGY

 

 

MW

 

 

NW82609

 

 

02/01/2017

 

 

Merry Street, Motherwell

 

 

4f

 

 

Mike

 

 

 

 

 

Resighting. PHOTGRAPH

 

More About Ringing

Bird ringing is a safe way of attaching a very small and light weight ring to birds which does not harm or bother the bird in any way. This means if a bird is captured or a ring is seen or photographed the details can be tracked by the BTO and organisations like the   Grampian Ringing Group. This is a great way of tracking bird movements and learning more about their behaviours.

If you see a bird with a ring please report it into local ringing clubs and the BTO.

Blog #4

Blog #4

 

A Cracking Start to 2017: Wild Waxwings 

On New Year’s Day I went to the James Hamilton Heritage Park in Stewartfield, East Kilbride to try out my new scope. I didn’t expect to see much because it’s only a small loch.

It was freezing and there was a lot of ice but surprisingly there were a lot of bird species around.  I only had to walk a quarter of the way round until I saw some Scaup.  I didn’t even need to set up the scope at this point because three of them were only a couple of metres away which gave me the chance to get a few close up photos.

Scaup
Scaup (male)

 

Scaup
Scaup (juvenile/female)

Once I’d got some decent shots I walked further round the loch and saw six snipe preening themselves. They were quite far away at a part of the loch which was inaccessible so then I set up my scope and saw them really clearly.  

I also saw lot of other species around like Herring Gull, Tufted Duck, Goosander, Mallard, Canada and Greylag geese, Moorhen, Coot, Cormorant, Robin and Black-Headed Gull.

 

Later that day I went to the Hup-Lee Restaurant (Motherwell) a for New Year’s meal with my family.  On returning to the car park after our meal we spotted over 100 Waxwings on a large poplar tree; unfortunately I didn’t have my camera and was so annoyed!

The following day I returned with my camera to try and find them.  As soon as we got to the restaurant a large flock moving from tree to tree flew right over me. Fortunately I managed to get some nice shots. I was really happy because although I’d seen a number of waxwings already this winter I certainly hadn’t managed to see over 200 at the same time or get any decent shots with my camera.

Waxwing
Waxwing
Waxwing
Waxwing

 

I finished off the day with a quick stop-off at RSPB Barron’s Haugh, Motherwell where I saw a Shellduck, Wigeon, Teal, Grey Heron, Mallards and lots of other common birds and a number of small mice and field voles. 

As the sun started to set I headed back to my house, I was very happy with our sightings for the day!